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Simulating Global/indirect Illumination with Mental Ray

By Richard Minh Le
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Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:
3ds Max, mental ray
Mental ray, a product of the Mental images, Inc, is the first rendering engine, which simulates the physically correction of the real light and reaction of surfaces to light. Together with Renderman, by PIXAR, mental ray is recognized as an industry-standard rendering software; and has been a major contribution to world-wide design visualization and feature film, including Oscar-awarded winning movie Spider-man for the best visual effect. Mental ray has been integrated into Softimage|3D and Softimage|XSI, Autodesk 3ds max, Alias Maya, Side Effects Software's Houdini 5, SolidWorks PhotoWorks 2, and Dassault Système's CATIA V4, V5 products, only in 3ds Max 6+. In the real world, light energy bounced off from one surface to another, causing some received-light surfaces to be secondary emitted-light ones. That's why illumination would be more even and interesting (in some senses). In 3d graphics, however, it does not happen by default, and users have to tell the software to simulate a system of bounced lighting. There are already two methods of generating this in Max, which are Light Tracer and radiosity. Mental ray is a newly-added one, based on different technology.

Interior scene

This is an imaginary cartoon-like space which shows a group of teapot trying to hide from the another. The renderer is currently set up to be Default Scanline. Also, the resolution is set up to 400x565 for testing/learning purposes. Lighting system includes one Photometric Area Light.

1. Hit render (F9) to start evaluating the render.

The scene generally looks boring as it is very shadowy and unrealistic.

2. Menu bar/ Rendering/ Render... OR hit F10. First, In the Render Scene window, scroll all the way down to the bottom and Open Assign Renderer roll-out. Second, click on the"..." button next the Default Scanline Renderer words,
then choose Mental Ray. You will immediately notice the change in the window layout. The two tab, Advanced Lighting and Raytracer, are replaced by Indirect Illumination and Processing. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will only talk about some of attributes in the Indirect Illumination tab.


3. In the Indirect Illumination tab, Global Illumination group: - check Enable, leave the Photons: 500 Hit render (F9)


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